Thursday, August 13, 2020

Documentary Filmmakers Make Their Pitch in Virtual Competition

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2020 at 2:22 PM

Filmmaker Dianne Whelan documents her journey on the world's longest trail in the forthcoming feature, "500 Days in the Wild."
  • Filmmaker Dianne Whelan documents her journey on the world's longest trail in the forthcoming feature, "500 Days in the Wild."

The California Film Institute brings compelling true-life films to the North Bay each spring in the popular Doclands Documentary Film Festival; though this year’s festival was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the most highly anticipated elements of the annual DocLands festival is the fundraising DocPitch; a forum to support filmmakers with documentaries in production through financial rewards based voting by the public and industry professionals.

This fall, the California Film Institute works to incorporate the DocLands festival in their annual Mill Valley Film Festival, still scheduled to take place in October. Before that happens, CFI hosts DocPitch online this month, beginning with a live stream pitch meeting featuring several filmmakers on Thursday, Aug 13, at 7pm.

For DocPitch, eight filmmaking teams with feature documentary projects currently in early-to-late stages of completion will pitch their ideas, offering details in a pre-recorded video and showing a trailer of the work-in-progress.

After watching the eight documentary pitches, the public is invited to place their vote to help decide which project will receive the $25,000 Audience Choice Award. The jury of industry professionals, including Academy and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Lee Mock and Grammy Award-winning musician and documentary film producer Speech Thomas, will award filmmaking grants totaling $100,000.

Each year, the DocPitch selection committee in charge of choosing the eight participating films looks for projects that showcase diversity of subject or theme as well as storyteller. They also seek out stories that are surprising or awe inspiring in their narrative as well as cinematic in their approach.

This year’s DocPitch films include 500 Days in the Wild, a feature documentary by Dianne Whelan about her solo journey on the world’s longest trail; American ESPionage, which traces the true story of the United States’ top-secret psychic espionage program as told through the story of Major Paul Smith; Black & Gold, which tells the previously untold stories of African-American gymnasts who must battle racism in the pursuit of Olympic gold, and My Name Is Andrea, covering the life of feminist outlaw and maverick thinker Andrea Dworkin.

Other in–the-work documentaries competing for DocPitch awards are focusing their lens on varied topics of interest such as the darker side of Silicon Valley, the work to disrupt America’s cycle of police violence and a Chilean community fighting to survive as a mining operation drains their water supply.

All DocPitch awards will be announced during a virtual conversation with the filmmakers on Friday, August 21, at 7pm. Participation in these events is free, but registration is required.

The 43rd annual Mill Valley Film Festival is scheduled to take place October 8 through 18. The festival, which holds a reputation for launching new films and creating awards season buzz, is keeping tight-lipped about it’s 2020 schedule for now, though CFI has suspended all public programs light of the circumstances related to Covid-19. The institute will resume regular screenings at its Smith Rafael Film Center when the current directives issued by state and county officials are lifted.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Local Cinemas Call for Help; Sonoma Film Festival Moves Online

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2020 at 12:47 PM

Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol is one of many local movie houses that have remained empty since March due to Covid-19.
  • Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol is one of many local movie houses that have remained empty since March due to Covid-19.

A month ago, there was hope in the North Bay that public gatherings could re-open this summer; yet things are looking bleak for many venues and businesses that rely on socializing as the summer moves into August with restrictions on hosting events still in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Five months into the shutdown, movie houses in Sonoma County and elsewhere in the North Bay are especially feeling the effects financially. As the film industry continues to push back opening release dates for major films like Christopher Nolan's Tenet, local theaters are joining a national movement to call upon Congress to "Save Your Cinema."

The online campaign is asking for the public's help to urge Congress to keep movie theaters alive until they can fully reopen. Specifically, the "Save Your Cinema" campaign is gathering letters from the public demanding that Congress support the RESTART Act, which will provide seven-year loans covering six months of
expenses for theaters, and to press the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to implement more relief measures for cinemas of all sizes.

"The moviegoing experience is at the heart of everything we do as we work with lawmakers and film distributors to protect, innovate, and improve the movie theater experience for audiences everywhere," the National Association of Theatre Owners, who represent theaters in all 50 states, writes on the "Save Your Cinema" website.

Local theaters participating in the campaign includes Sebastopol's popular Rialto Cinemas, which recently celebrated its 20th year of screening films in the North Bay. Located adjacent to Sebastopol's Barlow Center near downtown, Rialto Cinemas has established itself as an anchor of the community, bringing world-class films to West Sonoma County, and updating its accommodations to include a full kitchen, beer and wine service and other modern comforts.

Now, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing shelter-in-place orders in Sonoma County, Rialto Cinemas fears not only for its own survival, but for the survival of the entire industry.

In a recent release, Rialto Cinemas writes that, "We closed for the sake of public health and are abiding by strict safety restrictions and guidelines as we plan our reopening. But even when we are able to reopen, it will be very difficult to sustain our business with limited capacity. We need more relief so that we can survive this crisis."

Without the relief offered by the RESTART Act and the loans that come with it, Rialto Cinemas and other local theaters fear that they will be forced to permanently close their doors. To take action and join the letter-writing campaign, visit

Sonoma International Film Festival Opens Virtual Program

Last March, the Sonoma International Film Festival became one of the first North Bay events to cancel in the wake of a shelter-in-place order that made social gatherings impossible.

Now, the festival is turning to the Internet to turn it's globe-trotting party into an online affair for the SIFF 2.0 Virtual Film Festival, running Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, August 2.

The online event features over a hundred films streaming over the weekend, running the gamut from documentaries to short films, and representing 26 countries.

SIFF is also hoping to include socially distant offerings and plans to host up to 16 select film screenings at various outdoor venues, including local drive-ins. All in-place health orders and guidelines including social distancing, face coverings and hygiene requirements will be implemented.

Other highlights of the virtual festival include a showcase of student films from the Sonoma Valley High School media arts program, a program of short films by women filmmakers presented by the traveling Lunafest, video conversations with filmmakers, and more.

Those who purchased tickets and passes to last March's planned SIFF will have access to the virtual festival, and anyone can purchase streaming access per film, based on availability, or through a SIFF 2.0 Virtual Pass available at
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Monday, June 29, 2020

Several North Bay Fall Events Already Planning Pandemic-Related Postponements

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 1:50 PM

The Gravenstein Apple Fair is one of many North Bay events canceling their plans this fall due to Covid-19.
  • The Gravenstein Apple Fair is one of many North Bay events canceling their plans this fall due to Covid-19.

Last March, Covid-19 forced California to cancel most social gatherings and events through the spring of 2020. Soon after, it was clear that summer 2020 would follow suit as fairs, festivals and other fun events were postponed or called off in the wake of the virus’s continued spread.

Now, autumn 2020 looks to suffer the same fate socially as the last two seasons. Many North Bay–based events and harvest celebrations are postponing their fall gatherings before July even begins, as Covid-19 continues to gain ground in the state and the Bay Area with increasing numbers of new cases each week.

In Sonoma County, fall traditionally begins prior to Labor Day—which is scheduled for Sept. 7 this year—as harvest-related events get rolling in August. One such event, now canceled, is Sebastopol’s popular Gravenstein Apple Fair.

Agricultural organization Farm Trails hosts the fundraising fair that celebrates the locally grown Gravenstein Apple. On the fair’s website, the Farm Trails team writes, “Though we can hardly imagine August in Sebastopol without the Apple Fair, we are fully on board with the County’s decision to cancel large gatherings. We are so grateful for the health care workers and first responders on the front lines and for all of the essential businesses (farmers/producers, nurseries, grocery store workers, postage and parcel services, etc.) who continue to sustain and support our lives during these unprecedented times. We are also appreciative of the sacrifices our entire community is making by staying at home to help flatten the curve.”

The fair organizers also note that Gravenstein apples will still be falling in Sonoma County this fall, and they hope to find ways to mark the occasion with virtual events or DIY activities.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that Farm Trails continues to make good on its mission to preserve farms forever in Sonoma County,” says Farm Trails Board President Vince Trotter, in a statement. “With our main fundraiser off the table, we’re certainly facing some financial challenges this year, but our farmers are fighting through this, and so will we. We’re cutting our expenses to the bone and looking at some creative ways to bring in revenue and make the 2021 fair better than ever.”

Other popular harvest and culinary events canceling their 2020 gatherings include the massive Taste of Sonoma wine-tasting extravaganza, the annual Heirloom Expo of food providers and enthusiasts best known for its giant pumpkin contest and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Grand-Tasting and World Championship Grape Stomp Competition—though the Harvest Fair’s professional wine and food competitions will still be held remotely.

In Marin County, the arts are often a major part of the fall season, with festivals and fairs showcase both international and local artists and crafters.

One of Marin’s largest gatherings each fall is the Sausalito Art Festival, taking place on Labor Day weekend for more than 60 years. This year, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation will pause production of this signature event due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and other current challenges associated with event production. On the festival’s website, the Foundation says it will plan a new iteration of the event “to meet a shifting arts and entertainment landscape.”

In addition to pandemic concerns, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation writes that restrictions to access of the waterfront venue, competition for headlining musical talent and increased security costs and concerns are also factors in their decision to reimagine the event for 2021.

Another Marin fall staple, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, also recently announced its 2020 fest would be canceled due to Covid-19.

“For over sixty years our little festival has been a wonderful celebration of Mill Valley’s unique culture and community,” says festival executive director Steve Bajor, in a statement. “This year the responsibility to act prudently to ensure everyone’s safety is our top priority. Like so much we are missing, we are hopeful that the festival will return next year for us all to enjoy.”

Artists previously juried into the 2020 show will instead be featured on the festival’s website and will be invited to show their work in person at the next event, now scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19, 2021, in Old Mill Park.

Other fall arts events in the North Bay forgoing 2020 include Open Studios Napa Valley’s self-guided art tours, usually planned for two weekends in September, and the Sonoma County Art Trails, normally scheduled for two weekends in October. Still other major events canceled this fall include the Sound Summit music festival that celebrates Mount Tamalpais State Park each September at the historic Mountain Theater, and the Napa Valley Film Festival that was slated to happen in November.

“We appreciate the tremendous support and well wishes from our community during these uncertain times,” said Cinema Napa Valley Chairman Patrick Davila, in a statement. “Rest assured we will use this time to strengthen our commitment to our mission and develop new avenues to fulfill our vision. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2021 for our 10th year anniversary.”
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Friday, June 26, 2020

Sonoma Puppeteers Produce PSA for Children During Pandemic

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 11:43 AM

Sonoma-based puppetry team Images In Motion Media Inc. is an Emmy Award–winning company that develops high-quality video content using puppetry to deliver impactful messages in an entertaining way.

Last month, the creative operation—co-owned by professional puppeteers Lee Armstrong, Kamela Portuges and Kieron Robbins—released its latest puppetry project, a funny and action-packed Public Service Announcement video, “Down the Drain With COVID-19,” that educates children on proper hand-washing techniques to fight the spread of the virus.

“Puppets are a powerful visual tool to convey messages in memorable ways,” Armstrong said, in a statement. “And that’s what we strive to achieve. We hope this PSA will have a useful life as the pandemic changes the way we live. The visuals are aimed at children, to help them see why hand washing is so important. However, it has made me more mindful of using soap and doing the full 20 seconds. We hope people will view and share this important PSA message. ”

“Down the Drain With COVID-19 PSA” is available in both English (closed caption) and with Spanish subtitles, and was created for the Sonoma County Safety PALS, part of the Sonoma County Fire Chiefs and Prevention Officers Association. Safety PALS has a long history of educating children on fire and safety topics in the form of live performances and events, though PALS has been largely dormant since the 2017 North Bay wildfires. Now, with the pandemic developments, PALS felt it was time to connect with local youth once again, and sponsored the PSA video in lieu of hosting in-person performances.

The IIM team wrote the PSA script based on CDC hand-washing guidelines, and the plot of the PSA is simple and effective. Kids are introduced to a narcissistic, on-the-loose Covid-19 virus puppet that is ultimately defeated by a clever child at a sink, using soap and water.

The Covid-19 puppet was 3D modeled and printed by IIM before being molded in silicon, cast in pillow foam and painted. With the help of a local videographer, who filmed his daughter washing her hands, the IIM team shot the puppet on green screen and edited it into the hand-washing footage. The film crew that shot the live-action footage observed social distancing, wore masks and gloves and used sanitized equipment.

IIM provides full pre-to-post production, including a shooting studio and experienced TV puppetry crew, with other related services such as 3D design, modeling and printing, sculpting, props and puppet sets.

Lee Armstrong started out as a TV puppeteer for Jim Henson’s “Fraggle Rock”; her credits include the films Being John Malkovich, MonkeyBone and Follow That Bird. Her commercial credits include AXE, Best Buy, Mercedes Benz and Round Table Pizza, and she is the recipient of two Regional Emmys as a producer, writer and puppeteer.

Kamela Portuges started work as a special-effects artist on The Fly 2 before signing on at IIM. Her TV and film credits include James and the Giant Peach, Bicentennial Man and Life Aquatic as well as MonkeyBone and Being John Malkovich.

Kieron Robbins co-designs and builds TV puppet sets for award-winning productions and does sculpture, graphic arts and animation, recently moving into the world of 3D printing. His work has played a key role in videos that have earned awards from the National Ad Council, the Telly Awards, Parent’s Choice, DOVE and KidsFirst.

Currently, a number of North Bay groups including KRCB and the Sonoma County Board of Education are airing “Down the Drain With COVID-19 PSA,” and the video can be viewed now by clicking below.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Five Ways to Stay Connected in the North Bay This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 10:41 AM

Vocalist Eliott Peck leads an online cook-along dinner and show from her living room tonight, May 22. - JAY BLAKESBERG
  • Jay Blakesberg
  • Vocalist Eliott Peck leads an online cook-along dinner and show from her living room tonight, May 22.

Though Memorial Day weekend is customarily a time for gatherings, Covid-19 has put a halt to all the parties and festivals that usually take place in the North Bay over the three-day weekend.

Even with some North Bay parks opening back up, most folks may still want to stay at home—but that doesn’t mean they have to be bored. Many arts groups have ramped up their online offerings in recent weeks as venues and artists alike adapt to the new era of social distancing get-togethers.

San Rafael’s Terrapin Crossroads is one such venue, having expanded their digital offerings since closing down in March. Terrapin co-founder and Grateful Dead–icon Phil Lesh leads the way on the new Terrapin TV, performing with his son Grahame Lesh and friends from their respective living rooms to raise funds for the venue’s 100-plus staff members who are feeling the financial strain since the stay-at-home orders shuttered the space.

This evening, May 22, Terrapin Crossroads hosts a special cook-along dinner and show from vocalist Elliott Peck and guitarist Jesse Barwell, live from their kitchen and living room at 5pm. First, join the pair in making “Something like a Stroganoff” before enjoying some comforting music.

Deadheads can also enjoy live and recorded concerts streaming on Deadheadland. The long-running, Marin-based Grateful Dead fan site is hosting over 10 different streaming sessions this weekend, including performances by Marin musicians Scott Guberman and Stu Allen, as well as classic sets from Mark Karan and friends. Visit for a full schedule.

Napa’s Blue Note Jazz Club, another venue renowned for hosting nightly concerts, has also been dark for two months. In the meantime, it is participating in “Blue Note at Home,” a daily streaming showcase hosted by the original Blue Note in New York City. The live-streaming series showcases artists in their homes, and this weekend’s schedule includes a set from influential jazz-guitarist Marcus Miller, who will be talking about Miles Davis and playing bass on May 23 at 5pm. The next day, on May 24, Soul Rebels’ trombonist Paul Robertson streams at 1pm, followed by a set from harpist Brandee Younger and double-bassist Dezron Douglas at 3pm.

Up the road from Napa, St. Helena’s Cameo Cinema is one of several local theaters streaming on-demand films. In addition to offering streaming movie rentals, Cameo takes the online concept to new heights with its upcoming Zoomfari, in cooperation with Santa Rosa’s Safari West wildlife preserve.

The live virtual experience will feature a meet-and-greet with Safari West’s resident giraffes, and Safari West’s expert rangers will be on hand to answer questions. This Zoomfari pairs with Cameo’s streaming of the documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, which follows 23-year-old biologist, Anne Innis Dagg, on her unprecedented 1956 solo journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. The documentary is available to stream now, and the Zoomfari, presented as part of the theater’s “Science on Screen” series, happens on Saturday, May 23, at 10am on Zoom; RSVP links available on

In addition to this family-friendly event, kids will also get a kick out of a pair of online readings being offered this weekend through the new virtual version of the Bay Area Book Festival.

First, bestselling children’s author Colin Meloy—who’s other talent is leading the rock band The Decemberists—and illustrator Shawn Harris appear on YouTube together to discuss their newest collaboration, Everyone’s Awake. The read-aloud book for families is a fun new bedtime-routine for kids who have trouble getting to sleep. That program happens on May 23 at 10am, and is immediately followed by another kid-centric event, as the Bay Area Book Festival hosts author Brian Weisfeld on May 23 at 11am for a lemonade-making session aimed at inspiring kids to get that lemonade stand ready for summer.

Both of these events are part of a massive online pivot for the Bay Area Book Festival, which presents its #UNBOUND series of engaging conversations and readings through June at
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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Local Arts Groups Coordinate on Virtual Summer Camps

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 3:34 PM

Students can take an online filmmaking class with Alexander Valley Film Society, one of several virtual camps happening this summer. - PHOTO COURTESY ALEXANDER VALLEY FILM SOCIETY
  • photo courtesy Alexander Valley Film Society
  • Students can take an online filmmaking class with Alexander Valley Film Society, one of several virtual camps happening this summer.
Three Sonoma County arts and education organizations are coordinating their summer schedules this year to collectively provide North Bay students with seven weeks worth of virtual summer arts camps, June 22 to August 7.

The Alexander Valley Film Society, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and Transcendence Theatre Company are each engaging local youth with online arts experiences in their respective disciplines this summer, with the AVFS Filmmaking Bootcamp, the LBC Summer Arts Sampler Camp, the Transcendence Virtual Kids Camp and then a final AVFS Editing Bootcamp running consecutively to keep the kids busy all season.

“The collaboration is in the scheduling,” says Ashleigh Worley, director of education and community engagement at Luther Burbank Center. “The camps are independently run, and we’re working together so kids can participate in all three.”

Worley and the LBC have been offering virtual arts programming since a week after the shelter-in-place orders took effect in late March, and by meeting with several other arts organizations, it became apparent that everyone was worried about the status of summer camps in the North Bay.

“We started talking about how we can uplift and support each other’s work, whatever form it ended up taking,” Worley says. With so much unknown about the evolution of social distancing rules through the summer, LBC quickly made a plan to host a virtual summer arts camp, and Worley found likeminded groups in AVFS and TTC, which aligned their individual virtual camp schedules so students could attend all three camps.

First, the AVFS Filmmaking Bootcamp, running June 22–26 and led by Sonoma County–based writer/director and film educator Malinalli Lopez, welcomes students grades 5–12 to learn the basics of filmmaking over Zoom, using smartphones to creatively capture their story. The idea is for students to then continue to film themselves and their families during the rest of the summer camps for the final Editing Bootcamp that happens in August.

“The reason the three of us collaborated to get these programs out was to give families a sure-fire schedule that they could put into their calendars now and count on in the months to come,” says Alexander Valley Film Society founder and executive director Kathryn Hecht. “Even though we might be dealing with a little bit of screen fatigue, we want kids to stay engaged, meet new people and try to prevent much of that learning slide that is supposed to happen in the summer anyways.”

After the initial AVFS bootcamp, students are invited to participate in LBC’s Summer Arts Sampler Camp, a weeklong virtual experience for students grades 5–12 that will explore music in the form of ukulele, percussion and hip-hop dance. Available in three sessions, June 29–July 3, July 6–10 and July 13–17, the camps rotate through all three activities. The center’s massive instrument lending library will be open for students who don’t have a ukulele, and Worley adds there is no skill requirement to attend the virtual camps.

From there, students ages 7–12 can also choose to attend Transcendence Theatre Company’s virtual camp, July 27–31, that focuses on musical theater, improvisation, dance and movement. TTC is also hosting a Virtual Teen Intensive Camp for ages 13–18 a week earlier.

“Each day, they’ll have an hour of instruction and it’ll culminate in a 10-minute musical and solo concerts,” says Transcendence Theatre Company director of education and community engagement Nikko Kimzin. “It’s taking our in-person experience that we’ve had and seeing what works virtually and what can we amend for the virtual experience.”

The AVFS filmmaking bootcamps and the LBC sampler camps are free to attend. Transcendence Theatre Company is charging a modest fee, $35–$100, to pay the Broadway professionals who will be leading their camps, though Kimzin adds that TTC has several need-based scholarships available for students on their website.

“This is a collective mission of our arts organizations in the county,” says Kimzin. “I think arts are sometimes viewed as the side dish and not the main meal. We are trying to band together to say, especially in this time, connection and creating things as a group, as an ensemble, is a necessity for the mental health of our youth. The arts can be a main meal when it comes to that.”

The Alexander Valley Film Society, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and Transcendence Theatre Company virtual summer arts camps run June 22–Aug 7. Registration is required for each camp.;;
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Thursday, May 14, 2020

2020 Sonoma County Israeli Film Festival Continues in Virtual Form

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2020 at 1:17 PM

Israel's 2014 historical drama 'The Dove Flyer' streams as part of a new online film fest. - IMAGE COURTESY SONOMA COUNTY ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL
  • Image courtesy Sonoma County Israeli Film Festival
  • Israel's 2014 historical drama 'The Dove Flyer' streams as part of a new online film fest.

For its fifth year, the Sonoma County Israeli Film Festival was meant to run through the month of March at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol.

Featuring four films, this year's fest focused on a bevy of themes including gender identity, love and aging as well as the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict; except the festival only got through a single week before Sonoma County's shelter-in-place took effect to limit the outbreak of Covid-19.

Like many other events that could adapt to the internet, the festival–hosted by Jewish Community Center Sonoma County–recently transformed to a virtual streaming series, letting ticket holders to the canceled screenings still watch the festival's films from home.

This week, the Virtual Sonoma County Israeli Film Festival is offering a film not previously included in the 2020 lineup, 2014's The Dove Flyer, available for streaming between Sunday and Monday, May 18–19.

Next week, the festival concludes with a bonus streaming of another new-to-the-festival film, 2004's Turn Left at the End of the World, available May 25–26. This streaming is complimentary for any existing ticket holders to any of the festival's films.

Both The Dove Flyer and Turn Left at the End of the World deal with universal themes of immigration, clashing cultures and love, and both are critically acclaimed for their mixtures of drama and humor. Get tickets to the online screenings here.
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Monday, April 6, 2020

Logan On Hold

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 11:03 AM


As the timetable for the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent stay-at-home response continue to lengthen into May and beyond, more and more events and planned creative projects are being shelved for a later date or being canceled outright.

The recently crowdfunded documentary Your Friend Logan: The 4-Track Mind of Logan Whitehurst, about late North Bay–musician Logan Whitehurst, is the latest endeavor to suffer from the sheltering orders. Director Conner Nyberg announced today on the project’s Kickstarter site that the production, planned to begin this summer, has been delayed at least a year due to the current pandemic.

As reported in the Bohemian in February, the documentary, helmed by the South Carolina–based Nyberg and North Bay–producer-and-performer Matlock Zumsteg, will include interviews with dozens of people who knew Whitehurst best and incorporate Whitehurst’s original animations and rare archive material to create an intimate and celebratory film.

Nyberg’s statement on the delay notes that several of the interviewees are high-risk for coronavirus and the disease COVID-19, and that one interviewee was recently quarantined. The 20-year-old Nyberg also begins film school fall semester, meaning the earliest he and Zumsteg now predict that filming can begin is summer of 2021.

That said, the production crew remains hard at work prepping the film’s production, including combing through archival footage from Whitehurst’s life in music and art.

Read the full statement from Nyberg below.

Hi everyone. Some bad news today.

When the fundraiser ended, COVID-19 just began to spread in the States. At the time, Matlock (our producer) and I were cautiously optimistic, believing that once the initial panic had worn off, things would be able to carry on as usual.

Needless to say, that hasn't been the case, and it appears that things still have ways to go before it starts to get better again. Several of our interviewees are high-risk (one interviewee was recently quarantined), and if projections are true, we'll be expecting a second wind from this virus when school starts back up in the fall.

So we've decided to indefinitely postpone production.

Like everyone else, we're taking this all day by day, but if we had to give an ETA for when we'll be able to start back up production, our best estimate would be Summer 2021. This is keeping in mind that this virus probably will not totally blow over until the end of the year, and that I'll be starting my first year of university this fall.

That being said, work on the documentary is not over. Far from it - we're taking advantage of this situation to get even more done. This has given us even more preparation time, a chance to collect more resources, and more time to focus on getting rewards out to all of you.

Speaking of which, there are only a handful of people who haven't yet completed their reward surveys! Please fill those out as soon as you can, so that we can try and get the batch of Needlejuice rewards out at one time.

We apologize for such a large delay. This is as unusual of a situation as it gets, and we hope you understand. We also hope that all of you are safe and that you'll stay safe.

Thank you for all of your support so far, and we will continue to keep you guys updated on this awesome project.

Your friend,

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

These Local Theaters Will Screen Films In Your Home

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 3:45 PM

  • George Lazarus/ via Smith Rafael Film Center

While movie theaters remain closed during the shelter-in-place ordeal, local film purveyors are taking to the web to screen movies for those who are hunkering down at home.

In Marin County, the Smith Rafael Film Center is closed, though the theater is thriving online with the Rafael@ Home series featuring several films available to rent and stream at home, including Brazilian genre-bending, award-winner Bacurau and breakout drama Saint Frances. Films coming to the rental series includes intimate documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band and local filmmaker Nancy Kelly's acclaimed Thousand Pieces of Gold.

Downtown Larkspur's historic art deco Lark Theater is also closed in the wake of Marin County's sheltering order, and they've responded with their own Lark Streams service. The nonprofit venue is working with top film distributors to develop the online programming, which currently includes Academy Award-nominated Polish film Corpus Christi and the supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary coming soon.

In Sonoma County, the Alexander Valley Film Society’s Shelter in Place Series is gaining an audience with several offerings such as online filmmaker webinars, home screenings and a weekly Wednesday Film & Food series that encourages combining the at-home screening with local takeout. Upcoming online events include a Film Noir Q&A and Discussion with film critic and Barndiva owner Jil Hales on Sunday, April 5, at 2pm. AV Film Society is even hosting online educational classes for kids who are sheltering, with a film editing course happening right now.

In Napa County, the Cameo Cinema, closed for the time being, has been busy curating its own Virtual Cinema with several titles to rent, including some hard-to-find international films such as acclaimed Romanian crime comedy The Whistlers and  German historic thriller Balloon.

Click these links above to find out how to rent the movies from each theater/ film group. You'll be taken to their websites to purchase and watch the film, with a portion of ticket sales helping to support each group.
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Friday, March 20, 2020

Surviving the 'Shelter-in-Place' Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 1:55 PM

Locally-filmed comedy "Wine Country" is streaming on Netflix.
  • Locally-filmed comedy "Wine Country" is streaming on Netflix.

Sonoma, Marin and Napa County are all under 'Shelter-in-Place' orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic, keeping most of us at home for the first weekend in Spring. Here's a couple ways to spend the next two days from the comfort of your couch.

Access the Library from Home
All branches of the Sonoma County Library and Marin County Library are closed and programming at Napa County libraries is suspended due to health concerns.

If you can’t go to the library, you can bring the library to you. A quick trip to, or will guide you to a collection of digital materials and online services that includes eBooks and audiobooks, digital magazines, streaming movies and TV, and online learning services that are all free with your library card.

Don’t have a library card yet? Apply for a card online and start using digital services immediately.

Streaming Movies Online
Now is not the best time to be out and about, though locals can see some of their favorite Sonoma and Napa County spots in several movies, some of which are available to watch online. For wine connoisseurs, two movies in particular are perfect to put on while pouring a glass of Cabernet.

On Netflix, the 2019 comedy Wine Country (pictured), starring "SNL" alums Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and others, shows off Calistoga in style. On Amazon Prime, the 2008 feel-good true story of Napa Valley’s entry into the world of winemaking, Bottle Shock, features locations in both counties.

For fans of science fiction, action and horror, Marin is on the scene in two particularly great flicks. First, sign up for a free trial of horror movie streaming service Shudder to see John Carpenter’s The Fog, filmed entirely on location in Point Reyes and Inverness. Over on Amazon Prime, the surprisingly heartfelt 2018 Transformers spin-off Bumblebee rolls through locations such as the Marin Headlands.

If podcasts are still foreign to you, now is the perfect time to start listening to one of the millions of free online shows, and three North Bay podcasts demonstrate the breadth of content within the medium.

The Wine Country Women Podcast is an inspiring conversation show in which Michelle Mandro talks to ladies like winemaker Heidi Barrett and Charter Oak Winery proprietor Layla Fanucci.

Web series The Cult Show celebrates classic horror and sci-fi films with filmmaker guests and loads of fun at

Award-winning podcast Ear Hustle tells stories from inside San Quentin to reveal the nuanced life inside and the journey for those who must reintegrate to society once they are released.

Clean Your Room
There is much to learn about the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but based on what is currently known, transmission occurs via respiratory droplets and coronavirus may remain on surfaces for hours or even days.

That means it’s time to not only wash your hands with soap, it’s time to start cleaning surfaces you may touch around the house. Don’t forget to use disinfectants on tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, remote controls, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and anything that may come in contact with your hands.

For instructions on cleaning products and further preventative measures, visit
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